Tony Teravainen, USN (Ret.)
CEO & Co-Founder
A vocal advocate for the public support of our military community, Mr. Teravainen assumed his position as President and CEO in February 2014 after serving as a board chairman, director and volunteer since 2009.
In this role, Tony oversees the positioning of STEP as a successful, trusted and viable partner to Southern California and Washington State’s military population. Under his guidance, STEP has assisted more than 5,100+ military and veteran families in financial crisis move to self-sufficiency through financial counseling and $2.2 million in issued grants – with a 90% effectiveness rate.
Being the son of a career Air Force father, Tony knows firsthand the hardships young military families endure. Additionally, a medical condition abruptly ended his career as a U.S. Navy submariner, thrusting him into a difficult transition to civilian life. Tony is driven to serve our young military families as in them he sees himself, his parents, and his veteran brother.
Mr. Teravainen left his consulting position at Booz Allen Hamilton to become STEP’s full-time CEO, where for five years he consulted on strategy and process improvement. Prior to that, he spent seven years running his portfolio of small businesses, 12 years in manufacturing leadership at Sony Electronics, Inc., and eight years in the operations, repair and project management areas of the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Nuclear Power Program.
In addition to his representing Disabled Veterans as a Commissioner on San Diego’s Citizens Equal Opportunity Commission, he serves as Chairman of San Diego County’s Military & Veteran Advisory Council. He also currently sits on the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Defense, Veteran and Military Committee, and held past leadership positions with San Diego Military Family Collaborative, Veterans Community Connection, San Diego Veterans Coalition, and the San Diego Coast Guard City Committee.
Mr. Teravainen holds undergraduate degrees in business management and nuclear engineering, a master’s degree in Executive Leadership from The University of San Diego and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Liberty University. Tony has received multiple awards and recognition for his efforts to serve his community, including 2018 Top Veteran Nonprofit CEO and 2020 Top 50 CEO’s in San Diego. He holds professional licenses in Six Sigma, Project Management and Change Management, holds one U.S. patent, is a TEDx speaker, and frequent panelist discussing military and veteran policies and issues.
Married to Jaclyn with two daughters and a son, Tony resides in the Highland Valley area of San Diego County where he enjoys ranching his livestock and tending to his orchards
Kathi admires the men and women who make American freedoms possible through their sacrifice on behalf of our nation. She brings her passion for helping people use their own skills and knowledge to STEP and the heroes STEP serves. Kathi loves meeting new people who want to improve their lives starting with their financial situation. When not at work, Kathi enjoys being with her family, including her two young children, traveling within the United States and reading audiobooks.
Sara is married to an EOD Tech in the Marine Corps and orders brought her family to Camp Pendleton in Summer 2017. As a USMC spouse, Sara understands the struggles military families face and uses that experience to assist military families achieve their financial goals. Sara earned her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa where she is originally from and in addition to her degree, she is a Certified Personal Finance Counselor.
As a Navy Veteran having served 10 years and command ombudsman for 2 commands Jennifer understands the struggles military families may face as well as appreciating what this organization can offer. Her family has been in San Diego since 2005 and enjoy beach trips, weekend movie nights, and competitive family games like Sorry and Mario Kart.
Armed with a dual BA in Journalism and International Studies from Miami University, Kathleen is the queen of grants. Originally from a small town in Ohio, Kathleen recently moved to San Diego with her husband, Santiago, who is a logistics officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Community Engagement Coordinator
Boston bred Tracie is a San Diego transplant pulled to STEP by her passion for nonprofits. Her specialties include driving awareness and building communities via social media, partnerships, and marketing. Tracie has a dual BA in Economics and Global Entrepreneurship from University of Massachusetts Amherst. During her free time you can find her hiking and camping.
A San Diego native, Nia comes from a military family where her dad served in the Army. She understands the struggles military families have to go through and is looking to make a positive impact with STEP. She is currently in process of transferring to San Diego State University with a focus in earning her Bachelor's in Marketing. When she has free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling when she can, photography, games, and sleeping.
After moving down to San Diego from Monterey, Dallas was looking for a nonprofit career that would allow her to use her talents to help others. Being raised with military throughout her family, she has the utmost respect for our men and women who serve our country. When she’s not at work, she’s usually learning a new instrument, teaching her dog agility, or rock climbing.
Laura White Ludvik
Director of Development and Community Engagement
Laura has been fundraising for local, San Diego non-profits since 2003. Joining STEP in 2016, Laura comes from an Army family and has a passion to working with those who volunteer to serve our country. A Carlsbad native, she and her husband Matt had a baby girl, Delaney in 2019.
Rena is a US Navy Veteran, and came to San Diego in Spring 2019 as a military spouse of a US Navy service member. As both a veteran and a spouse, Rena has experience and knowledge of the challenges of the military lifestyle, and how that impacts a family financially. Rena uses her experience, knowledge and resources to assist service members and their families identify and achieve financial goals. Rena holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Hawaii Pacific University and a Master of Social Work from THE Ohio State University.
Community Engagement Coordinator - Orange County
Shannon joined STEP just over 2 years ago. As the wife of a Navy veteran, Shannon knows the financial hardships our young military families endure. Shannon resides in Costa Mesa with her husband Eddie, 2 sons Alex and Gabriel, and their 1 dog and 2 cats. She enjoys spending time with her sisters, cooking, comedy, and riding motorcycles
Tracy Owens, USN (Ret.)
As a 30-year Navy Veteran, who served in both the enlisted and officer ranks, Tracy understands and has seen the struggles young military families face first hand. That is why she is so passionate about this organization. Tracy has been in the San Diego area since 2008 and enjoys going to the beach, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.
Tara Lange is the development associate for STEP. As a Navy Spouse and mother of two, Tara has a great deal of insight and passion for STEP's mission. She has obtained a Master's degree in counseling through Regent University in Virginia and a Bachelor's in Psychology through Georgia State University. Her family arrived in San Diego in 2018 and enjoy sight seeing, hiking, theme parks, and getting to know other military families
Christina is a Navy Veteran turned spouse. She moved to San Diego with her husband and son in 2019 and understands the financial struggles for military families in the area. Christina enjoys running, reading, and mastering new crafting projects.